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A Liberal Jew Struggles With a New World (and World View) Where Armed Self-Defense is Now a Sensible Option

…I didn’t enjoy myself. I didn’t say “yes,” when [my friend] Kedem asked me afterward, “Wasn’t that fun?” I didn’t feel powerful or godly or safe, and no matter how dire the situation we Jews may be in, I still can’t picture going through the process of buying a gun.

I thought of the literary term “Chekhov’s Gun”: “One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn’t going to go off,” the playwright famously said. He was referring to props, to literary promises not kept, but I think of it literally: Don’t have a gun unless you’re planning to use it.

I do not want to use it. Getting firearm training didn’t make me want a gun, but something has changed within me. Or maybe it’s just the world has changed — my world had changed.

Since October 7, everything seems upside down: I’ve seen so many of my liberal allies fail to stand with me like I stood with their causes (which I’d thought were our causes). I’ve lost friends and lost respect for people like my longtime family doctor, who signed an open letter from Columbia University faculty that contained anti-Israel sentiment but failed to condemn Hamas. I can no longer distinguish between anti-Zionism and antisemitism. I find myself essentially fangirling far right-wingers I once eschewed, such as the nasally fast-talking Ben Shapiro, who opposes abortion but puts anti-Zionists in their place.

I do not know what it means to be a liberal Jew in America anymore. I don’t know what it means to be against gun violence or against people who have guns or just against having playdates at houses with people who own guns — not when those people are all around me, when those are my people. 

— Amy Klein in Taking a Trip to the Firing Range Was Something I’d Never Do Before October 7

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